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Appflowy – open-source Notion Alternative (appflowy.io)
304 points by lab 64 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 78 comments

So, there's Focalboard (https://www.focalboard.com/), Outline (https://github.com/outline/outline) and Appflowy.

Has anyone compare these three Notion alternatives, yet? Would love to know, which one comes closest to the features of the original.

There is also https://bangle.io - a web based local note taking app.

It’s still early in development, but it distinguishes itself from the crowd by allowing you to open your locally saved markdown notes while providing a notion like WYSIWYG interface.

Looks like a neat concept! I tried it out quickly and it seems quite early indeed. It (for whatever reason) didn't detect all directories/files. For example I created a new workspace based on a directory containing four subdirectories (each with MD files) and it only detected/showed two of them.

Anyways, I will be keeping an eye on the progress!

Hmm that's interesting, can I please request you to open the issue https://github.com/bangle-io/bangle-io-issues/issues so I can fix it. Thanks!

I might try focalboard, I am using Joplin now, but looking for something… more? Like that you can run it local offline. Appflowy is macOS only right now unfortunately,

You can use focalboard to run locally with sqlite: https://www.focalboard.com/download/personal-edition/ubuntu.

I can see that the appflowy repo has a build folder for Windows, so if you're using Windows you can try compiling it? Flutter is pretty easy to set up and compile.

FWIW I'd be interested to see how much work it'd take to add linux support, since in my (albeit basic) experiments with Flutter it didn't take much effort at all. Good first issue?

If you give focalboard a try, we'd love to hear feedback! :)


Not original poster, but some quick notes:

- Easy setup. I was up in 5 minutes flat including reading time - Good start templates - Aesthetic quibble - dark theme seems off. I don't know if its a shade of grey that throws me off or what - It does not have pretty moving animations of various boxes ( and it is a good thing! )

I will keep playing with it.

What about Obsidian and Cherrytree?

I don't know about the others, but Outline is nowhere close to a notion clone. Notion has way more features, and Outline is more focused on being a wiki/knowledge base.

Outline looks fantastic. I prefer open source to build a Knowledge Base for my business. I would def not use a proprietary system.

IN my understanding the licence allows me to use it and do what I could do with a normal open source licence except that I cannot build another SaaS using the code?


Am I correct to understand that this licence says that the license changes to a fully open one after 2025? What's the catch?

Edit: A quick search took me here: https://mariadb.com/bsl-faq-adopting/. I imagine this license was created by MariaDB to stay "open" while at the same time prevent another corps to offer their software as a SaaS.

Could anyone confirm this?

Yes. No catch. You can host it for you (personal) or your company but you can't host and sell it as SaaS.

Several others projects such as Sentry.io or Zerotier are using this license. Be aware that this license is not considered open source but is more like "source available".

You also can't pay some one else to host it for you. If you have to fork it for any reason, you will be stuck hosting it yourself, even if there is a large group of folks working together on the fork, everyone will have to host it themselves to use the fork, at least for several years until the code becomes open source. Beware vendor-lock-in.

I don’t consider this vendor lock in; more other-vendor lock out. Which is not to say it is necessarily better or worse - it’s just different.

For a company with internal IT or IT capable people, that’s a small hurdle if running the software is not too hard.

For a company with all IT outsourced, this is a deal breaker.

It will likely stop the behemoths (AWS, GC, Azure) from capitalizing on that product though.


But does this prevent me from hosting it on say, an instance on Google Cloud?

What's the wording that would prevent that?

>What's the catch?

Only the code reachable from given git hash changes, not anything later.


I don't know when this Notion thing took off but after recently being forced to use it at $DAY_JOB I don't get the hype. It feels like GDocs but with the directory embedded in the sidebar. Given how many people are rushing to clone it I must clearly be missing something.

Also their implementation of OT or CRDTs is horseshit, it failed miserably when there was ~6-7 of us updating a bulleted list at the same time.

The power is in the edit and view being the same view.

It's also wonderfully minimal, much faster loading, and follows basic markdown as opposed to forcing you to use BBCode or Jira specific syntax.

Previously wiki like Confluence software used to force you to go to 'edit' mode to switch between the two. This also fails when multiple people are editing the same document.

You can have a phone call with someone, and see each others cursors, edit simultaneously in real time. You say this fell down, but in Confluence this would be impossible.

It's also super easy to share pages with external vendors using the GUID based URL. They can even comment inline if they register.

> It feels like GDocs but with the directory embedded in the sidebar.

> The power is in the edit and view being the same view.

This doesn't seem to be a distinguishing factor from Google Docs which also doesn't have a separate view. The other advantages you listed are nice, but also don't seem unique.

> Previously wiki like Confluence software used to force you to go to 'edit' mode to switch between the two.

This is actually a feature. Readers of a page/doc are seeing a consistent view until the next time "Publish" is pressed.

> You can have a phone call with someone, and see each others cursors, edit simultaneously in real time. You say this fell down, but in Confluence this would be impossible.

No longer true! Confluence (Cloud, at least) does this right now. If two (or more) people are in edit mode, those people get an experience much like Google Docs.

The main difference between Notion and gdocs is that Notion is a wiki; you can easily navigate up and down the page hierarchy without leaving the current tab. Gdocs keeps docs separate, so you’re constantly bouncing back and forth between folder and docs, or more likely just keeping one massive, poorly organized doc with everything you might ever need in it

Rather than seeing Notion as a Google Docs alternative, it might be better to see it as an alternative to Atlassian Confluence or other wiki softwares. I can certainly say that Notion was a much better fit for us than something like Confluence was for use as a team wiki.

OneNote or Confluence is the better comparison, for just writing text in but Notion has a more powerful data model. You can link a set of pages together through their attributes and view them through a table, kanban, calendar etc. It's basically a simple relational DB, which allows you to build information tools on top of it.

At our (now defunct) startup we used it to do all our initial CRM and ticket management. We had all our customers in one table, and a different table of ongoing tickets linked to the first. We had similar setups for other things. As things started to scale we moved out to dedicated tools but having that capability meant that the initial version was much more accessible and useful.

I'll jump to whatever project has an API with features like custom link unfurling and off-site embedding.

Notion doesn't let you embed its pages in other sites, and doesn't provide a programmatic way to display proprietary content. This means it's black boxed and limited insofar as integration with enterprise tooling is concerned.

as I remember they use the “last win “ strategy, instead of crdt

Whatever their implementation is it's bad and they should change it.

The fact that their Roadmap is hosted on Trello rather than Appflowy itself says as much about where the project is at as the roadmap itself.

Gitlab was on Github. Doesn't mean much.

That's why I'm said "where the project is at" (present tense). At the moment Gitlab was still on Github, probably meant that it needed features at that moment in time that Gitlab itself couldn't offer. Any customers that needed those features would likely prefer Github to Gitlab at that moment. Ditto for Appflowy, but as things change, it'll be good to reevaluate it that time.

What makes this especially weird is that the Trello link is right underneath the Demo Pages heading. It's the only clickable thing there. Besides that, the section only has two screenshots, one of which seems to be showing of how you can use Appflowy as a Trello-like board. Confused.

Yes! I saw that link there and thought, cool idea showing a practical use case.

Notion team is true to their product all the way. Even using it as their blog.

You have to start somewhere if your own system isn’t ready yet but I agree, I’d change it over to my own application before launch…

I guess I greatly underestimated what Notion was -- I thought it was mostly a note-taking tool ("Evernote 2.0"), but Appflowy (and a visit to the Notion site again) makes it seem like a project management tool + wiki?

Notion is essentialy JIRA + Confluence + OneNote wrapped up in one (not implying anything about the quality of the products just their competencies)?

[EDIT] - A possibly disturbing/pleasing thought -- is Notion Chat on the horizon?

I had the same idea about Notion before, and after using it the best way I have to describe is that it is a database manager, and what can it do is up to you. You can use it for simple note taking (and it does have nice features for that), but also add databases in certain formats, with properties, links between them, run "queries", add reminders... In a sense, it's like coding a (very) basic application without coding. Pretty helpful, for example I use it for managing recipes and shopping lists automatically (among other things).

Yes. It can be any of those, all of those, or none of those, and it's all organized in a hierarchical manner like a folder tree with emojis being the new way of identifying and codifying documents.

Would it be possible to do this using an email client and draft emails ?

I'd surmise that if you tried you get so far away from what email was meant to support it would have been a better idea to create something new anyway.

There's also JMAP[0]

[0]: https://jmap.io/

(I work at Notion)

> A possibly disturbing/pleasing thought -- is Notion Chat on the horizon

I don’t think Notion is interested in this outside of making our comments work better.

Appreciate the comment -- yeah the fact that comments are already in there and maybe people might want to chat live without switching to another app made me think it might be a thing.

Maybe slack/mattermost/etc integrations will be good enough forever

You can already chat async on a page pretty well with Notion in comments.

Using rust and flutter for a project like this seems to me, that the authors just searched for a project to learn/use a new skillset?

Although, an interesting stack, this is definitely not boring technology, so the innovation tokens will be used probably with flutter web.

I am enjoying the fact very much that there are more and more visible efforts to make modern, free and (post-)open alternatives to commercial software.

What I am still not understanding is how designers and programmers can make a living when "everybody" uses cheap and decentralized (Yunohost, etc.) cloud instances.

Sorry for the tangent, but is anyone aware of any open source alternative to workflowy (quite a bit different to notion, a lot simpler, usually described as an infinite outliner)?

I really got on with that whilst I was briefly using it, but it being proprietary was a bit of a concern

Athens Research uses a workflowy like UI. It comes with a bunch of other features, but you can ignore those pretty easily.

Obsidian with the Outliner plugin is also nice - although Obsidian isn't open source, it is free and all your data is stored locally as markdown files.

1. https://github.com/athensresearch/athens

2. https://github.com/vslinko/obsidian-outliner

There is Logseq (https://logseq.com/) although it is more oriented to recreate Roam.

Yeh logseq looks really nice, but seems to have a bit more of a steep learning curve. What really drew me to workflowy was the simplicity of just one page and a list of bullets (though I guess it might be possible to emulate that in logseq, maybe even easy)

You can do that, but Logseq is definitely not optimized for longer pages and you will quite quickly start to feel that. But putting everything in one note might be a good starting point to learn new workflows with these kind of outliners.

Why is the project's roadmap is located in Trello and not in the website itself?

(Disclaimer: I work on Notion)

It looks like desktop software built with Flutter. Their editor is based on https://github.com/singerdmx/flutter-quill which also has a web version, so maybe they’ll be able to target web in the future. For now I don’t think they support multi-user sharing or collaboration yet, and I didn’t see web features listed on their roadmap either.

Another (largely unheard-of) alternative to Notion is https://www.larksuite.com/ , by ByteDance. It's quite good.

(I hope I didn't just start a political / ideological debate because I mentioned ByteDance.)

Not sure why you would think it'll reach geopolitical level, a good product is a good product.

But, based on the description in their Chinese page, the service is not self-hostable (???). If this is true then there is no real reason to use such service since there are many better alternatives (Notion for example).

Does not seem to be Open Source or offer a self host option like AppFlowy.

It's not like Notion's privacy policy/TOS are great to begin with, so it's a low bar.

This doesn't look much like Notion. I think it's a lot closer to something like Google Suite (even the name indicates that).

Ah this is great! I've been looking for something like Notion but self-hosted.

There's also Anytype.io, though it's still in closed invitation-only alpha and the promise they will open source it in the future.

Outline is another (more mature) option: https://github.com/outline/outline

From when I last tried it, Outline lacks any of the database/datatable functionality of Notion, but Appflowy seems to already have much of this functionality built in (or at least something like it is visible in one of the screenshots shown). Furthermore, logins in both the self-hosted and cloud versions of Outline require logging in with third party providers, no local accounts, so it can never be fully self-hosted.

Just host auth provider right next to it... Awesome-selfhosted list has some cool solutions

Outline's rich-markdown-editor (https://github.com/outline/rich-markdown-editor) package is pretty nice. I have used it to make some custom MD editor/CMS experiment.

Are any of these options a git repo under the hood for the actual knowledge base?

It’s very valuable to be able to have the double workflow of a nice web interface alongside a plain text developer git workflow and leads to a very future proof knowledge base.

There are quite a few options for markdown + git knowledge bases, eg. Obsidian. You can easily find more alternatives discussed here on HN by starting a search on Obsidian.

If you’re looking for more of a CMS there’s quite a few options out there, most notably static site generators like docusaurus or vuepress. Plug: I’ve built a small tool to generate the markdown from notion, which allows me to use notion as my CMS editor while keeping the generated site fully under my control. https://github.com/meshcloud/notion-markdown-cms

Obsidian is great, but only free for personal uses.

You are looking for a tool like NetlifyCMS, which uses Git for its data store behind a nice web UI.

Why does this sound so much like Workflowy[1]?

[1] https://workflowy.com/

Because that's also a Notion alternative. Not open source though sadly.

To my understanding, Workflowy has been around for longer than Notion. I think I started using it 6 or 7 years ago.

If you're looking for a full-fledged alternative to Notion, I'd look at Anytype. It's closed beta for now.

Is Notion the tool with the most copycats? Slite, workflowy, loop, appflowy, outline, focalboard, ...?

Workflowy was founded 2-3 years before notion and is more of a bullet point (tree structure) based knowledge management tool.

Does it allow easy internal linking and does it have a graph like in Obsidian or Roam?

Would you like to elaborate a bit about how those graphs are useful ? I think the graphs in roam are too dense to be useful .

It looks like this is self-hosted only as opposed to a more direct alternative to Notion.

Looks like they are still in the early stages of development. I wouldn't be surprised if in future the developers/someone else decided to host a paid version of this software so that it becomes more accessible.

Right now there is not much reason for end-users to pay for this, and running servers is expensive if you don't have a business model...

If this has offline mode and fast search, I am in.

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